Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A New Day Awning

Due to accepting our volunteer gig in Ecuador, our westward travel plan to Jasper and Banff were put on hold for another time. However, Glacier National Park, another in our bucket list of stops, remained doable.
Highway 2 seemed the most viable route to get to Glacier and avoid traveling on Interstates. We intersected with it near Grand Rapids, MN, birthplace of Frances Ethel Gumm (hint: “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto”) then continued on to Cass Lake, MN and a pull-through site at the Stony Point Resort and Campground. Not a terribly remarkable overnight but 200 miles for one day was quite enough.
That evening, as we plotted more stops along Hwy 2 through ND and eastern MT, not many acceptable overnight options presented themselves. However, Devil’s Lake, ND and the Spirit Lake Casino & RV Resort intrigued us so we made a reservation. Stay at a Casino you ask? It turned out to be a very comfortable stop – one of the nicer parks we’ve stayed in and at a very reasonable rate - $22 It was quiet with wooded sites and full hookups. We hardly knew we were at a casino.
The weather continued to plague us with severe thunderstorms. Making our way to Minot, ND was no different. But it had cleared up nicely by the time we arrived at the Roughrider Campground. Once more, not a very memorable stop. Or so we thought.
After setting up, and with the sun shining, we extended our awning to dry it out. Figuring we had time left in the day to try a little birding at a wetland about 30 miles away we quickly departed.
As we birded a narrow gravel road in a wetland, Carol looked to the north to see a very dark wall of rain rapidly approaching.  Before we knew what hit us we found ourselves whipped by 60mph+ winds and blinding rain. Wind and rain hit the truck with such force we dared not move. Besides, we could not see beyond the hood of the truck. The wipers could not keep up. No sense trying to move and risk driving blindly into the marsh.
As we sat holding hands Carol worried aloud about which objects would strike us in the head if the truck were flipped on it’s side and wondered if there was a tornado embedded in the rain (shades of the 2-mile wide tornado we had just missed in Mississippi). My thoughts were of our extended awning…
With Carol mumbling something about never watching “Twister” again, the storm let up enough for us to start back to the RV park. The return trip seemed to take forever. Hampered by the storm’s intensity, we were repeatedly forced to pull off the highway. Finally reaching the park it was obvious our awning would never be the same.
The arm on one side had been bent up and was resting on the roof. The other arm was still straight but bent inward. The awning lay against the RV’s side filled with water. It didn’t help that the wind was still gusting to 45mph as we tried to untangle the mess. Eventually we managed to release the awning roller from the arms. The awning dropped alongside the RV, pinned hard against the side by the wind but effectively blocking all the vents. For safety sake, we turned off the appliances and gas to avoid any potential for fire or dangerous gas build up inside. No hot water, no propane for cooking or heat, and with rain continuing to fall and the wind unabated, it was a long cold sleepless night.

The next morning we drove into Minot to make arrangements with a local RV dealer to remove our now permanently unfurled awning. The RV dealer had already been busy pulling other RV’s out of a nearby flooded KOA campground. The 3.5 inches of rain that had fallen that afternoon also flooded several area businesses including a Volvo dealer (his inventory had water up to the windows of most of the cars on his lot). Long-time locals stated they had never seen a worse storm.
By late morning, techs from Capital RV arrived to remove the awning, awning roller and motor and secure the arms to the side of the RV so it could be moved. That afternoon we hooked up and drove into the dealer to have the roof patched and inquire about getting a new awning. The upshot for replacement: given the multitude of sizes and colors that Carefree Awning models come in, no RV dealer ever stocks them. ETA for a new awning shipped from Carefree? Ten days to two weeks.
Call us crazy but sitting in Minot ND for two weeks wasn’t an option. We instead decided to try and make arrangements with an RV dealer in Kalispell to preorder a replacement awning and have it on hand when we arrived. It would then take only two or three hours to install and we could continue our journey west.
One might reasonably expect that it would be a simple matter to order an awning but that was not to be. Sorting out a myriad of part numbers with Carefree, KZ and the Kalispell RV dealer turned out to be far more time consuming and difficult.

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